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George and Amy’s Away Day Experience #3 – Preston vs Aston Villa

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George & Amy head to Preston v Villa for another hot date!

– “Amy liked how he “defended his honour”, proving she’s definitely lost touch with reality after watching too much Game of Thrones.”
– “We both opted for the classic British pie: Chicken Balti. The flavour was very nice, but the contents-pastry ratio was slightly skewed”
– “Goal-line clearances are always an exciting part of the game, but John Terry’s in the first half obviously tipped the scales for Amy as she shouted: “Yes John, I actually know who you are!” at the top of her voice.”

Two sides with realistic hopes of promotion matched up at Deepdale on Wednesday night, with Aston Villa hoping to continue their fine form at the expense of a Preston side desperate to put an end to their poor run. Following Chorleygate, we took every precaution possible to stay dry for our next game. I wore the most waterproof coat and shoes I have whereas Amy took it a step further, pulling out all the stops by wearing her big woolly hat. We didn’t address the most critical factor though: we were going to a mid-week match… in November… in the North.

On the Road: Even though both of us only finished work at five, a direct train from Manchester Piccadilly took about 45 minutes so if you’re on a tight schedule, the journey is still feasible. We had to cut corners a little bit though and wolfed down a tea of sour cream and onion Pringles and Celebrations on the way. To be honest, that’s a dream meal- but soon my gut will be bigger than my future. As they say, “you can take the man out of uni, but you can’t take uni out of the man”. Preston train station’s surrounding area was geared up ready for the festive period with the Christmas lights put up to begin a decent journey to the ground. It’s about a half an hour walk to get to Deepdale from the station but there’s plenty of cashpoints and decent looking pubs/restaurants to get your fill. There were plenty of car parks on the main roads as well should driving be an easier option for you.

Venue:

When walking from the station, you turn onto Deepdale Road and suddenly see the floodlights from the ground towering over the terraced housing. It reminded me a lot of Goodison Park, which is similarly hiding in and around the local area and not detached from the actual town or city. Around the away end (the Bill Shankly Kop), there was an interesting statue of Sir Tom Finney as well as a sports bar named in his honour. The statue is also a fountain which was interesting but unrealistic, given the game would definitely have been called off due to a waterlogged pitch as the Preston and England legend slides in for the ball. Inside the ground, there was a nice mix of modernity and tradition. An old-fashioned clock, for example, is the only form of timekeeping available for any nervous or bored supporters to guess how long is left. An adult ticket price also came in at £24, Over 65s could get in for £16, Under 22s for £15, Under 18s for £8 and Under 11s for just £2- kind of what you’d expect for most games at this level so no complaints there.

Cuisine:

As much as we may have enjoyed our unorthodox tea we were both looking forward to our pies so much we got one before the game rather than at half time. Aston Villa took over 2,000 fans, so there could have been a long wait for food, but the staff made sure that the queue moved quickly. We opted for a pie and drink combo for £5.50- not bad at all considering a bottle of Fosters on its own was £3.60. That’s probably punishment for me liking Fosters though in fairness. We both opted for the classic British pie: Chicken Balti. The flavour was very nice, but the contents-pastry ratio was slightly skewed in favour of the latter which isn’t what you’re after. It could’ve been a bit warmer as well, but then that’s understandable given that Preston will have had to have coped with a mass of supporters and can’t exactly hand make their pies from scratch in honour of the Great British Bake Off.

Clientele: Villa have always had a reputation for taking along a large and vocal following across the

country and they didn’t disappoint. Taking over 2,000 to a mid-week game is very impressive irrespective of how the team are doing in the league- cue the smartarses writing ‘Leeds would’ve taken more’ as their epic quest to get top comment on Facebook continues. Villa also had a lot of original chants which are great to hear. Referring to Alan Hutton as ‘the Scottish Cafu’ is absolutely class if a little unrealistic when comparing him to the world class Gary Naysmith at his marauding best in the mid-noughties.

The Match:

Villa started the brighter and were rewarded when James Chester headed in after ten minutes from a Robert Snodgrass delivery to the delight of the travelling faithful. The goal seemed to shake Preston into life though, and they started to take control. They could’ve had a penalty as well- Sean Maguire was taken out by James Chester with replays showing that it probably should’ve been given.

Villa’s second after 30 minutes was a sucker punch- Josh Onomah pounced on a defensive mistake about 50 yards out before squaring for Robert Snodgrass to tap the ball in. The home side continued to enjoy large amounts of possession but couldn’t break through before being caught on the break a couple of times. Villa failed to convert though, Albert Adomah particularly guilty of wasting a good chance after being put through. Overall, the 2-0 win was well deserved for Villa as they pushed closer towards the top two.

Man of the Match:

John Terry and James Chester Two centre halves with Premier League experience really showed their class and marshalled the defence excellently. Keinan Davis also showed great maturity at just 19, offering a constant outlet whether holding the ball up to link play or by making selfless runs into the channel to relieve pressure.

Amy’s Man of the Match: Keinan Davis When confronted by a Preston defender, Davis went head to head with him and showed he wasn’t going to back down. Amy liked how he “defended his honour”, proving she’s definitely lost touch with reality after watching too much Game of Thrones. Rumours that Davis is set for a January transfer to the Night’s Watch remain unfounded.

Highlight of the Night: As I ran through some of Aston Villa’s notable players and history etc. before the game, Amy nodded along and seemed to be absorbing some of the information. Thirty seconds later, she turns to me and asks who we were supporting. You can lead a horse to water…

Highlight of the Night: Amy’s Highlight of the Night: Goal-line clearances are always an exciting part of the game, but John Terry’s in the first half obviously tipped the scales for Amy as she shouted: “Yes John, I actually know who you are!” at the top of her voice.

Photo credit should read: Joel Ryan/PA Wire

Finally, shout out to our mates Michael, Joanne and Tom who also came to the match, making it even more enjoyable for us. Cheers for trebling our usual readership as well of me, Amy and my Mum by reading!

George and Amy

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How good is your FA Cup Knowledge?

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LONDON, ENGLAND – MAY 27: The FA Cup Trophy is seen prior to The Emirates FA Cup Final between Arsenal and Chelsea at Wembley Stadium on May 27, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

How good is your FA Cup knowledge?

FA Cup Quiz

Test your FA Cup knowledge with our quiz to mark the occasion.

Leaderboard: FA Cup Quiz

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Matchday With The Missus – Man City v West Brom

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Amy has really got into this series.

I thought I’d reward that by taking her to where, arguably, the best football in Europe is currently being played: Manchester City. Okay, tickets were also only £15 for students and we can basically see the Etihad from our flat, but that’s irrelevant…

On the Road:

Midweek games always make it difficult for us to make kick-off given Amy works until 5pm and I’m just generally shocking at time-keeping. However, the Etihad is incredibly easy to get to. If driving, there are plenty of reasonably priced car parks not too far from tram stops such as those around the Northern Quarter and Shudehill.

Trams also run regularly towards the stadium from both Piccadilly Station and the centre of town with a designated stop dropping you off right outside. We fell victim of a random snow storm waiting for the tram back after the game though. This would’ve been fine if Amy hadn’t decided to do her best Oliver Twist impression and wear a pair of shoes with a hole in them. With valentine’s day on the horizon, maybe she was hinting at a gift idea… shame all she’s most likely getting is a Moonpig Card and one of those ‘free backrub’ coupons that all boyfriends make for their significant other after they’ve left it too late to get anything else. Don’t say I don’t treat you Amy!

From Victoria Station, walking to Piccadilly Gardens or St. Peter’s Square isn’t too difficult but, if you get lost, people are always willing to help. Most people are friendly in Manchester and it isn’t considered a war crime to ask directions from someone you don’t know like it is in London. If you don’t fancy the trams, it’s probably about a half-hour walk from Piccadilly station to the stadium.

Venue:

If you haven’t been before, the Etihad is very impressive with plenty to get on with before the match. There are plenty of bars outside the stadium and a main stage with a live performance or special guest speaker. If you’ve got some time beforehand, it’s well worth checking it all out- nice atmosphere and plenty to do.

However, there was something that Amy hadn’t encountered before on her away day adventures: lots of stairs. It seems she decides to do a leg day at the gym the night before any away day which will involve lots of walking or steep hills. Unfortunately, her requests to be carried to her seat fell on deaf ears.

Tickets are expensive but that is simply a sad fact of the top two divisions of English football. The one upside is that you normally do get your money’s worth. The downside is that we overbudgeted worse than 99% of students on loan day for this match. Amy’s next away day experience probably won’t be as glamorous as this one.

Cuisine:

Given the financial clout that City possess, we had high expectations when going for our half time grub. I was looking forward to the staple British Chicken Balti on arrival, but we decided to be adventurous and went for a Chorizo and Bean pie instead.

We weren’t disappointed- the meat-veg-pastry ratio was almost perfect. The only downside to it was the fact that we had to fork out a fair chunk of our student loan to get it. This was the general trend for all the catering options: top notch food for the price of a mortgage. It’s no wonder City had £57 million to spend on Aymeric Laporte the other day when the cheapest pint at the Etihad is £4.

There’s also the option of getting a glass of wine for £5.50 for those of you with money to burn and ambitions to get absolutely plastered. Overall, irrespective of its price, the food was top notch and can’t be faulted.

Clientele:

Bit of a cop out for this section as we could only get tickets for the home end. We were sat right above the West Brom fans though and could hear them throughout the game. Travelling midweek for almost two hours to watch your side, who are bottom of the league, face arguably the strongest team in Premier League history deserves some respect.  All the best for the rest of the season.

The City fans were in full voice throughout the game but that’s hardly surprising when your side’s playing like they are. Nevertheless, to get 53,000 to a midweek match against a side who aren’t an immediate rival is impressive.

Amy enjoyed the chants, strangely commenting on the quality of the “acoustics” in the stadium.
She then confused City’s chant of “Oh Kevin De Bruyne” to the tune of the White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army with “Oh Jeremy Corbyn”. It would be pretty funny if Jeremy Corbyn had been brought in on deadline day to be fair, saying the transfer was “for the many not the few” and that he liked the club’s ambition, given City’s anti-austerity stance in the transfer market. There was also a classy gesture from the fans towards Gareth Barry, who was applauded when coming on as a sub for West Brom. It’s always nice to see a set of fans acknowledge a former player’s efforts.

The Match:

Manchester City were immediately on the front foot, zipping the ball around but failing to break through a stubborn West Brom rear-guard. After twenty minutes though, an incisive De Bruyne pass cut the defence in two to find Fernandinho, who coolly finished past the onrushing Ben Foster. The Brazilian was lucky to escape punishment soon after though, appearing to stamp on Grzegorz Krychowiak (no I haven’t just run my fingers along my laptop’s keyboard, that’s his name).

Half time came and went but not without some excellent entertainment. Move over Grand National, the only race I’m betting on this year is Manchester City’s mascot sprint, which we were introduced to before the second half. According to an anonymous source, the bookmaker’s favourites were Dr. Devil (roundly booed by the crowd for his links to Manchester United) and Colin the Christmas Tree.

Dr. Devil eventually ran out as a clear winner, making the most of his excellent current form on the good to firm ground this season. Amy was content with the result, seeing as she had Colin the Christmas Tree on an each-way bet.

Into the second half and City began to dominate with good chances going begging for Sterling, Agüero (who Amy knew as the “AGÜEROOOOOOO” man, as she later told me) and De Bruyne. It was the latter who eventually doubled the lead after breaking through the centre of the pitch, avoiding a cynical foul by James McLean to play a one-two with Sterling before finishing comfortably.

Two important saves from Ben Foster ensured that the Baggies were still in the tie, tipping over an audacious 50-yard chip from De Bruyne and getting down smartly to his left to keep out an Agüero backheel. However, despite the away side’s best efforts, a clever reverse pass from Sterling found Agüero just before stoppage time and the Argentine duly put the game to bed.

We were the opposite end of the stadium to the tackle that got everyone talking- Matt Phillips’ drop kick on Brahim Diaz. As a result, we’ve sadly got to pull an Arsène Wenger here and say we didn’t see it. However, replays show it was the kind of tackle you’d see put in on anyone with pink boots and gloves on a Sunday League pitch. Phillips, disappointingly, didn’t complete the Sunday League likeness by making the universal “I got the ball ref” sign by imitating a spherical object with his hands. Gutted. In all seriousness, Diaz luckily seemed alright after the challenge. West Brom did have a couple of decent chances, the pick of the bunch falling to loan signing Daniel Sturridge. One on one with the keeper, the England man had two bites of the cherry but failed to convert. Final Score: 3-0.

Man of the Match: Kevin De Bruyne 


The Belgian is on another level, working tirelessly to form a first line of defence and faultlessly inventive when going forward. I get the feeling, in a decade or so’s time, people will be saying: “I saw De Bruyne play”, just like Henry, Shearer, Ronaldo etc.

Amy’s Man of the Match: Raheem Sterling

One of the few players that Amy has actually recognised on our travels because she’d laughed at his running style on Match of the Day. Sterling did have a great game, but I doubt that’s why Amy’s picked him- more likely because she thinks he’s cute because he “looks about 12” and funny because he runs like a tyrannosaurus rex.

Highlight of the Day:

About an hour into the match there was a lull in play after an offside decision. Amy suddenly broke into a rendition of ABBA’s Mamma Mia without warning. It was like she had a form of Tourette syndrome where the tics were cheesy 70s/80s European pop groups. Can’t wait for her to start blasting out Africa by Toto next game.

Amy’s Highlight of the Day:

Amy very excitedly tapped me on the shoulder and pointed towards play in the second half. At first I thought she’d spotted something incisive, a late run into the box, an off the ball incident or an injury. Turned out it was just a pigeon that couldn’t get out of the stadium and was flying around the players, much to her amusement. This stuff just writes itself.

Finally, big shout out to our mates Michael (a veteran of our trip to Deepdale) and Joel who came to the game with us- your company was, as always, greatly appreciated.
Thanks for reading once again!

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VIDEO | Al Jazira defender scores absolute screamer on an own goal.

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You can’t a beat a screamer. That moment the ball sits up so perfectly, as the player winds up his shot everyone in the ground knows what’s coming, a shot set up so sweet it almost seems destined to hit the back of the net, no matter who stands in its path.

The weekend’s fixtures in The United Arab Emirates Arabian Gulf League brought just that. An outstanding goal in the clash between Al Jazira and Al Dhafra produced a quite incredible goal, a peach, a screamer, a real beaut… Just one problem, it was at the wrong end.

As own goals go, Al Dhafra’s defender, Yasser Abdullah, produced one of the finest we’ve ever seen. A strike worthy of any one of Europe’s elite front men.

The rocket of a finish came as Al Jazira where on the attack in the 72nd minute with the score at 0-0. A long punt forward to striker Ali Mabkhout was controlled poorly with the opposition defender Yasser Abdullah breathing down his neck. The pressure proved to much for the striker and as the ball slipped away from his possession, Abdullah cut in to take the ball, However instead of taking the loose ball into space, or punting it into row Z, the defender inadvertently produced a worldly finish straight into the top-corner of his own net.

Superb strike! The game ended 3-1 to the home side Al-Jazira, with Abdullah’s strike being the highlight of the game by far.

If the defender was feeling down after the strike, let’s hope he didn’t watch it back on his return home, as the the commentator certainly had no sympathy, enjoying a good chuckle at the defender’s expense.

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